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Asia’s architectural treasures ‘vanishing’

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NEW YORK — Asia’s architectural treasures, from a Buddhist monastery in Afghanistan to an ancient city in China, are in danger of vanishing under a tide of economic expansion, war and tourism, according to experts.

The Global Heritage Fund named 10 sites facing “irreparable loss and destruction.”

“These 10 sites represent merely a fragment of the endangered treasures across Asia and the rest of the developing world,” Jeff Morgan, executive director of the fund, said, presenting the report, “Asia’s Heritage in Peril: Saving Our Vanishing Heritage.”

The architectural gems from Asia’s ancient and sophisticated cultures are struggling in the face of economic expansion, sudden floods of tourists, poor technical resources, and areas blighted by looting and conflict — in other words, the pressures of rapidly modernizing Asia.

“We’re looking at these millennial civilizations leapfrogging into the 21st century at a kind of pace that is unheard of, unprecedented,” said Vishakha N. Desai, president of the Asia Society, which hosted a conference based on the report.

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Kuanghan Li, head of Global Heritage Fund’s China program, underlined the urgency in a presentation on work to preserve Pingyao, one of China’s last surviving walled cities. The stunning fortifications are impressively maintained and floodlit.

But “up to 20 years ago, there were hundreds of similar walled cities left in China,” she said. “They have been demolished.”

Experts said that global architectural preservation efforts are poorly coordinated and targeted, with the UN cultural body UNESCO focusing almost entirely on sites in already wealthy European countries, rather than in places like Latin America or Asia.

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More than 80 percent of UNESCO World Heritage sites are located in the 10 richest states, the Global Heritage Fund said.

Elsewhere, “heritage is being dramatically undervalued,” Morgan said, warning that the endangered sites were doomed without quick help. “We’re going to lose them on our watch in the next 10 years.”

Shirley Young, head of the US-China Cultural Institute, said the importance of such work goes beyond being “just about beautiful buildings, beautiful sites.”

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“I think we’d agree,” she said, “that a world without history is a world without soul.”

Still, experts highlighted stories of inspiring success stories.

John Sanday, a specialist who has spent years trying to bring Angkor and other Cambodian sites back from the brink of collapse, showed dramatic before-and-after photographs of majestic temples that he first encountered two decades ago.

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“The trees had literally just taken over and strangling the building, pulling it apart,” he said, pointing to ruins that had been made structurally sound once again — although now under threat from tourism.

“We really hope with a concerted effort we can save these places,” Morgan said.

The top 10 endangered sites in Asia, according to the Global Heritage Fund, are:

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1. Ayutthaya in Thailand, a former Siamese capital known as the “Venice of the East.”

2. Fort Santiago in the Philippines.

3. Kashgar, one of the last preserved Silk Road cities in China.

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4. Mahasthangarh, one of South Asia’s earliest archeological sites in Bangladesh.

5. Mes Aynak, an Afghan Buddhist monastery complex on the Silk Road.

6. Myauk-U, capital of the first Arakenese kingdom in Myanmar.

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7. Plain of Jars, a mysterious megalithic site in Laos.

8. Preah Vihear, a Khmer architectural masterpiece in Cambodia.

9. Rakhigari, one of the biggest, ancient Indus sites in India.

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10. Taxila, an ancient economic crossroads in Pakistan.


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‘Clear and present racism’: MSNBC’s Morning Joe and Mika say Kellyanne Conway should have been ‘fired on the spot’ for slurring reporter

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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were astonished by Kellyanne Conway's response to a reporter asking about President Donald Trump's racist attacks on four first-year lawmakers.

The White House senior adviser asked Breakfast Media White House correspondent Andrew Feinberg, who is Jewish, about his ethnicity after he asked Conway what countries Trump was telling the Democratic congresswomen to return.

"I won't draw any parallels with any fascist countries, but what happened yesterday in a press gaggle has nothing to do with the United States of America," Scarborough said, "and in any other administration over the past 240 years, a person that did what Kellyanne Conway did yesterday would have been fired on the spot. By the time she left the press gaggle and went back into the White House, they would have already packed up her belongings and would have told her leave by the back door and never talk to us again."

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Elon Musk shows off progress on brain-machine interface

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Futurist entrepreneur Elon Musk late Tuesday revealed his secretive Neuralink startup is making progress on an interface linking brains with computers, and said they hope to begin testing on people next year.

Musk has long contended that a neural lace meshing minds with machines is vital if people are going to avoid being so outpaced by artificial intelligence that, under the best of circumstances, humans would be akin to "house cats."

Musk and members of the Neuralink team laid out progress they have made on their mission at an event held in San Francisco to recruit talent in software, robotics, neuroscience and more.

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2020 Election

Two Texas Republicans in Congress were outraised as national Democratic offensive kicks off in Texas

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Two potentially vulnerable Texas Republicans in Congress were outraised — and a few others saw seriously funded challengers — as the first major fundraising deadline passed in a cycle where national Democrats have built an expansive battlefield here, targeting six seats.

In the second quarter, Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, fell short of Democratic challenger Sri Preston Kulkarni, $378,000 to $421,000. Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, raised less than Democratic opponent Kim Olson, $225,000 to $279,000, before making a large loan to his campaign. And a few other GOP incumbents posted strong numbers — but so did Democrats running to unseat them, in a couple cases outpacing the officeholders after they entered the race mid-fundraising cycle.

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